Three hundred native heather plants were planted on Bowden Down by about a dozen volunteers after the village coffee morning on 6 October 2018. The plants were purchased using a grant from Brentor Parish Council.
This planting is part of the project to regenerate the Down and bring it back to its original habitat of lowland heath. More work will continue this autumn and winter in conjunction with the Tavistock Taskforce, using funding received from the Co-op Good Causes Fund.
Two teams of hardy volunteers braved the weather in late November 2019 to plant about 300 native trees on Bowden Down. On consecutive Sundays they planted a mixture of native trees , oak, rowan, hazel ,holly, birch, hawthorn , crab apple and wild cherry. The trees, sticks and guards came from the Woodland Trust as part of their recent tree planting campaign.
It was interesting to come across trees that we had planted about 12/13 yrs ago that were now quite substantial small trees. We lose about 50% , as some just don’t make it and others get grazed off by deer when the guards are removed, however, we also came across many self seeded oak, hawthorn and birch where they are protected by gorse, hawthorn and blackthorn from the deer.
Historically thorny scrub protected small trees from grazing animals on common land. “The thorn bush is the mother of the oak”, an old forest proverb, is very true. There was a statute in the New Forest in 1768 which imposed ‘hard labour’ for three months upon anyone damaging holly or thorn, starting every month with a number lashes of the whip!
Some scrub has to be controlled to keep access open, let light in etc but it provides a very protective environment for many creatures and young trees. It’s a fine balance which our ancestors knew very well and managed to provide grazing, firewood, charcoal in a very sustainable way.
2020 Lottery Grant
Brentor Commons Association submitted an application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in December 2019 for a grant to enable them to continue and expand their work on the Brentor commons and to carry out surveys to produce an up-to-date picture of their flora and fauna. It will enable a five-year conservation management plan to be produced, train and equip volunteers, hold events such as bat detecting, moth and small mammal trapping, pond dipping, and bird watching. They will also run walks and hold talks on the commons in the village hall.
The bid for £44,500 was successful! Of course the Association members are very excited about the prospects that the grant will open up, but now the real work begins. The National Lottery Heritage Fund supports environmental projects and ones which try to involve as many people as possible in the conservation, enhancement and understanding of habitats, so this application was exactly what they were looking for.
The award fits well with the objectives in The Commons Association Constitution:-
(i) To promote for the benefit of the public the conservation, and improvement of the physical and natural environment of Bowden and Liddaton Down.
(ii) To advance the education of the public in the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment of the Brentor Commons.
The Executive Committee will be discussing plans and how they will implement them over the next 3 years. They will welcome ideas, suggestions and involvement from everyone in the coming months and years as this grant opens up many possibilities that they have aspired to in the past but have not always had the resources to follow up.
Damage to Liddaton Down
Serious damage to Liddaton Down was discovered it on 10th September 2017. A large, probably four-wheel-drive, tractor with a heavy duty ‘topper’ has been driven around the south-east quadrant of the Down creating a three to four-metre wide track. It has smashed into a particularly sensitive area for butterflies which the Brentor Commons Association have been managing for some years and has caused considerable, possibly irrepairable, damage.
Will Walker-Smith, a member of the Association, has spoken to some of the Commoners and they have no idea who has done this. The Police have visited the site twice and it have recorded the damage as a crime. The Association is receiving advice from The Open Spaces Society and Devon Wildlife Trust and the damage has been featured in the Tavistock Times and will be on the Western Morning News. The pattern of destruction is has been recorded using a Drone camera.
Some small trees have already been planted into the illegal access gaps to make it obvious that it is illegal to drive onto the Commons and signs with information about the damage, crime reference number etc will be erected.
The land is owned by the Brentor Commons Association and managed as a wildlife reserve with open access for members of the public. The Commoners have rights to graze cattle, sheep and pigs, remove stone, turfs, bracken and sedge from the Common. The commons have not been grazed for many years and have been owned by the Brentor Commons Association since 2004.
It is thought that the track may have been cut to create some form of ‘off-road’ track for either motorised trail bikes or, even worse, for four- wheel drive vehicles.
The area is being monitored on a daily basis and all people are asked to report any incursions to the police or the Brentor Commons Association.